Va. Commonwealth student newspaper reports 2,500 copies stolen

VIRGINIA — Campus police at Virginia Commonwealth Universityin Richmond, Va., are investigating the theft of April 2 issues of the studentnewspaper, which featured a controversial photo and headline on the frontpage.

Thieves removed approximately 2,500 issues of the 3,000-circulation paper,which is distributed twice a week at various stands around campus. Adding upprinting costs and advertising revenue, the value of the stolen papers is anestimated $1,700. The newspapers have not been recovered.

“It’s blatant censorship and also a tremendous waste ofresources,” Managing Editor Roberto Curtis said.

Editors at the Commonwealth Times suspect the theft is related to aprominently placed photo that depicted a man violently grabbing a woman’sface in scene from a campus play. The headline accompanying the photo and playreview said “Power of Love.” Criticism of the photo and othercoverage in letters to the editor and other feedback prompted editors to publisha column explaining the editorial decision to run that particular photo andheadline.

VCU Public Relations Specialist Michael Porter, who represents the campuspolice, confirmed that the campus police are investigating the theft but couldnot provide details since the case is ongoing. Newspaper staff members arehoping surveillance video will provide leads or evidence.

“The heartening thing is that the police seem to be taking itseriously,” Student Media Director Greg Weatherford said.

Campus police did not consider it a crime when the CommonwealthTimes faced a similar theft in recent years, Weatherford said.

Like many campus newspapers, the Commonwealth Times is availablearound campus for free. In response to the theft, editors added a sentence tothe masthead on the inside cover that states the first copy is free, andadditional copies may be purchased for $1.

Curtis said that if the perpetrators were concerned about content of thenewspaper, they should hold a forum or promote discussion instead of suppressingthe issue.

“Whoever committed the censorship should come forward to say exactlywhy they felt like stealing the papers was necessary and engage in adialogue,” he said.

For More Information:

  • SPLC Newspaper Theft Forum